As comfortable as an old dog snoring.

THIS OLD DOG

Don’t let the title fool you: The dog does not die.

The title introduces the protagonist simply as “old dog,” a gray and shaggy old mutt whose “bones are sore” but whose “heart is strong.” Brockenbrough’s measured text emulates his pace, extending standing, yawning, stretching, eating, drinking, and assisting with “clean up” into separate, deliberate steps. But even though old dog is slow, “the speed of life since the girl was born is fast fast fast.” He endures much-too-quick walks that make him limp and dreams of a friend who’ll play with him. In one heart-rending spread, old dog stands alone in the garden next to a blue ball nobody has thrown for him: “His heart thumps. His tail does not.” But when that baby girl (White, like her parents) begins to toddle—“all the way to him”—it’s clear he’s found his friend, someone who “stops to smell the grass” and who knows the importance of “a just-right rock.” Alborozo’s delicately lined cartoons invest old dog with enormous personality, the blur of his tail thumping the only fast thing about him. His postures as he stretches and slurps, dolefully stands, and “drifts to sleep in a stripe of sun” are perfectly doggish. Brockenbrough likewise captures his essence in her meticulously trimmed text. Old dog is never named, and the consistent omission of an article before “old dog” is both universalizing and sweetly particular.

As comfortable as an old dog snoring. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64614-010-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Levine Querido

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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